E Does The Future Scare You?

From handwashing to social gathering, our fundamental patterns of life have been permanently altered. Can you imagine going to a packed party with 50 friends and not being concerned about catching something? How about a packed restaurant, or a packed airplane?

Our world has changed. Even if we discover the perfect Wuhan Respiratory Syndrome cure tomorrow, our lives will never be as they were.

We will pay a price in economic dynamism. I've worked in a Cloud Company for nearly a decade. I am well aware of the trade off between the vitality of face-to-face collaboration and the flexibility of remote work. The most creative environments I've ever been have involved a group standing around a shared workspace (e.g. table) working through a problem and coming up with solutions. 

We are far from capturing that energy through Zoom (ZM).

Of course, the costs will go beyond the loss of face-to-face collaboration. Massive economic and political shifts may well follow. What were meant as an emergency measure - massive payments to businesses and individuals in need - could easily become the norm. Subsidies could replace economic activity. Onshoring could prop up inefficient producers of everything in every little country. Soft landings could make economic dynamism harder and harder to deliver. 

The most pernicious of all the changes may lay in the definition of 'essential.' This concept behind this simple word is written into the Marxist Maxim "from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.

There is a risk that these essential needs could well define the goods, services and freedoms we experience in the future. In the face of illness, or the risk of death (or the fear of climate change or ....) we could see those who engage in the 'non-essential' pilloried (or worse) for their excess. 

In the name of saving lives, reducing sickness, saving the earth or providing for the most needy among us (all worthy goals), religious services, protests, luxury products, travel, having 'extra' children and so much more could be permanently curtailed. The power of Facebook (FB) shaming could be given the force of government.

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Karen Klein 2 months ago Member's comment

I'm actually less afraid than I was a couple of weeks ago. I had thought millions would die, there would be rioting, looting and complete chaos. But things seem pretty much under control and restrictions are now starting to ease up. I know people are taking about 2nd waves, and "the dance" whatever that is, but so far things seem to be getting better.

Alpha Stockman 2 months ago Member's comment

I'd like to think Trump realized he made a huge mistake in dismantling the Pandemic Response Team so that America never gets caught unprepared again. Being that he is cutting off funding to the World Health Organization, he apparently hasn't. But I assume the presidents who replace him will learn from this major screw up.

Joseph Cox 2 months ago Author's comment

Oh, and I think Trump is a vain idiot. I doubt he realizes any mistakes - he's too good at getting other people to pay.

Joseph Cox 2 months ago Author's comment

The WHO has been awful. They simply repeated Chinese garbage information (and dismissed early Taiwanese input). The problem, of course, if that you can't predict *which* disaster movie will strike. An asteroid could hit tomorrow and we'd point fingers at cutting asteroid searching efforts. Or Yellowstone could go up and we'd point fingers at not investing enough in vulcanology. Or a major Earthquake could hit Oregon - same. There are lots of predictable disasters, you can't actually prepare for every one of them.

On a more focused case, I'm not sure what the proper response would have been. Initial calls were for borders with China to remain open - probably because Trump closed that. That almost certainly delayed things. He continued to shut down borders with the proper authorities mocking him. It was probably the right thing to do though.

There hasn't been an actual ventilator shortage, so I don't suppose that is added to the list of failures.

There wasn't effective case tracing. But the US can't do the sort of tracing that other countries can - we can't even find 10 million illegal immigrants - so that's a nonstarter.

There needed to be support for the financial hit. That was done, although it'll never be enough. But he gets a passing grade here.

Basically the one core thing a President can do that he didn't do well enough was messaging - Trump was almost certainly awful at that (I don't know, I've never managed to watch a whole speech of his).

But even if he had been brilliant he would have been pilloried and the effect of his speaking would have been awful.

As far as this precise criticism: I don't think the lack of a Pandemic Response Team had much impact - just as the Genocide Council hasn't done much to stop any genocides.

Alpha Stockman 2 months ago Member's comment

Originally Trump praised the WHO as being the best and brightest. He's only now blaming them to try to deflect from his own failings. I'm not saying that politics doesn't work its way in the WHO at all, that's life. But at the end of the day, they are scientists and even if they delayed longer than they should, they warned the world about the pandemic with plenty of time to prepare.

Joseph Cox 2 months ago Author's comment

No they didn't. They went to China and blindly praised Chinese efforts. On March 11th, they declared a Global Health pandemic. Here's what I published on my podcast January 28th:

"You see, the disease was first noticed in early December. Locking down Wuhan was very impressive, but the chances are the horse has already left the barn. Over four million people left the city between the time of initial detection and when they shut the doors.

If the disease can be transmitted during its dormant period of up to 2 weeks then millions of people could have left, undetected, as carriers.

If the disease is contagious when there are no symptoms, then there’s no way to get a leash on it now."

This was a month before the WHO declared it to be so. I'm no scientist, but it didn't require one.

I went on to say:

"One of the problems is, we don’t have good information.

And the reason we lack that information is tied directly to the reason city authorities waited so long to intervene?

It is basic: midlevel governors in Communist China don’t pass bad news up the chain. Bad news indicates they aren’t good at their jobs. It can get them canned, or worse. Instead, like Richard Madoff, they try to paper over the bad stuff until it gets to be okay. Sometimes, as with Richard Madoff, this just makes things worse. A lot worse.

To put it another way, the sign of good management is good outcomes. And so reported outcomes, no matter what the reality, are good."

I praised the WHO then - because I didn't realize how much they had been corrupted. I expected standard interventions would be applied - I didn't realize the WHO had already decided not to apply them, because Beijing didn't want to.

Jack S. Chen 2 months ago Member's comment

What do you mean "The power of Facebook shaming could be given the force of government?"

Joseph Cox 2 months ago Author's comment

We've already seen it. Social media is redefining our world and very very quickly. People lose jobs, are mocked by millions, drive panics etc... Facebook values very quickly become social values and then acquire the force of law.

Without any judgement on to whether the changes are good or not, they happen. The social shift on gay marriage happened in very little time, and was driven by social media.

Currently, we've gone from Facebook panic on the virus to extremely judgmental perspectives on dangerous activity (insert your definition of dangerous here, it is changing regularly but it was having private masks a few weeks ago) to not just a call for personal responsibility but actual legal attempts to eliminating the freedom of assembly, worship and even (in a flowback) of speech. You can't meet people in person, but Twitter, Facebook etc... follow WHO directives on what you can and can not say about WURS.

Facebook results in government power, government power results in Facebook limits, rights are limited in the name of perfectly reasonable values. It is one heck of a circle.

The story covers that too :)

BreakingBad News 2 months ago Member's comment

I heard suicides, murders and divorces will be way up. But I'm furloughed have savings and am getting money from the government and don't have any kids to drive me crazy. I have been enjoying the time off and luckily don't know anyone directly who has died or even been very sick. So for me, I don't really expect much to change (except maybe my putting on a few pounds). Once things get back to normal, I expect I'll be refreshed enough get even more done.

Joseph Cox 2 months ago Author's comment

I've been working at home forever. My kids are largely self-managing. etc... I've taken a massive pay cut, but am still okay. But I know people looking out their window and calling the cops on lone folks on walk without masks. I can definitely see supply chain problems beginning to creep in in important ways. As a weird little example, the cocoa trading towns have shut down or small shops in Europe that have been allowed to reopen are lacking their supplies.

And, of course, lots of people don't have jobs and that will creep upwards - trickle up economics.

Plus, the more money the government issues the less meaningful and valuable one's savings will be. One way or another there will be a future shift in resources to handle the emergency.

Harry Goldstein 2 months ago Member's comment

I don't think I will ever go on a cruise ever again. And I doubt I'm the only one. I think it could easily be 5 years at the earliest before they fully recover. Those places became prisons and death traps.

Joseph Cox 2 months ago Author's comment

After the Diamond Princess I was flying home. Other people on the plane were delighted because they'd gotten a great deal on a cruise. I was kind of shocked at their excitement.

Texan Hunter 2 months ago Member's comment

One change - I no longer thing #Trump is a sure thing to win a 2nd term. I used to think the man pissed gold, but I've come to realize that he's lied to us from the beginning about this outbreak, I've had friends and family who died because they listened to him instead of the experts.

Joseph Cox 2 months ago Author's comment

I never thought he pissed gold. The basic deregulatory approach was impressive, but he was never an inspiring leader to me. Almost none of them are. He *still* might win a second term. Biden seems to be suffering from increasing mental issues. Trump, for me, is really a symptom of US political illness not the cause of it. It is a South American style battle between entrenched interests and a caudillo. He's the caudillo. They never work, but people can come to almost worship them.

Adam Reynolds 2 months ago Member's comment

People keep telling me "nothing will ever be the same!" But why? Am I so naive to believe that "this too shall pass?" Why won't things go back to normal?

Joseph Cox 2 months ago Author's comment

First, the virus will be here for a long while. The bouncing along game of "it could come back if we relax" will remain for a long while. It will mutate etc... etc... So we won't pop back out. SARS barely killed anybody in comparison, but I still changed how I cough and watch my hands then and never went back.

Second, given the change in priorities, people will shift how they live. Online management tools will get better. Home teaching will be more effective or provide other benefits. We'll do things differently.

Third, we will have tasted the power of social panic. Those who are good at it won't get set back in their boxes so easily.

Fourth, if life becomes the only criteria then what we do for life could be fundamentally shifted. Imagine if the news counted off the people who died in your city in car accidents each day. It would have a very negative effect on driving.

Adam Reynolds 2 months ago Member's comment

I can't help but wonder if all this is overblown though. Yes many people will die, but most won't. The world has recovered from far worse pandemics in history.

Joseph Cox 2 months ago Author's comment

The social impacts may well be greater than the medical ones.

Alexis Renault 2 months ago Member's comment

You really don't think things will change at all?

Adam Reynolds 2 months ago Member's comment

Small things sure - probably a lot of people who never ordered groceries online and the like will continue to do so. A lot of people were forced to learn to be a bit more tech savvy. But I don't see any far reaching changes. It's not like people will no longer get together, or that companies will suddenly let all of their people work from home.

Black Widow 2 months ago Member's comment

You may be right. I don't think anything changed much after the Pandemic of 1918. So why would this be different?

Joseph Cox 2 months ago Author's comment

The war was reshaping society already. It had a far far greater effect. And, yes, we are still impacted by WW I. It is our classic warning of snowball effects, of unsettled issues, of the risk of reparations etc...

Critically, the 1918 flu burned out. For whatever reason, it came and went. Part of that might have been how ineffective we were in combating it. Like a recession that keeps hanging around, a dampened virus might be worse that a sharp one.

Ayelet Wolf 2 months ago Member's comment

I thought nothing would ever be the same after 9/11. And in fact I saw a marked change in New York'ers for a time after - people were actually NICE to each other. People weren't pushing or rushing in the subway. There was a somberness and tension in the air. But then months later, everything went back to the way it was.

Joseph Cox 2 months ago Author's comment

Ayelet, in terms of politeness, yes. But the government got extensive new powers, surveillance increased, police presence was stepped way up, large events were protected like never before, hundreds of thousands went to war and thousands of Americans (and hundreds of thousands of others) died. We are still living in the aftermath of 9/11.

Ayelet Wolf 2 months ago Member's comment

Yes, I suppose that is all true. But in terms of how it effects my day to day life, I don't feel particularly different.

Dick Kaplan 2 months ago Member's comment

A lot of companies have investing heavily it remote collaboration tools. So some may want to see a return on that investment.

Michelle Bell 2 months ago Member's comment

Whenever I think of remote working and Zoom, all I can think about is that more woman who forgot her colleagues could see her, and went to bathroom with her laptop on her lap. And then it went viral!

Natalia Rodriguez 2 months ago Member's comment

Michelle Bell, oh no! That's horrible, that can't be true.

Michelle Bell 2 months ago Member's comment
Joseph Cox 2 months ago Author's comment

Thankfully it wasn't so viral I had heard of it before this :)

Joseph Cox 2 months ago Author's comment

These tools are still really limited. They are so much better than they were, but the energy of in-person work is not there. The accountability is also lacking - especially for people who are not self-starting.

Adam Reynolds 2 months ago Member's comment

I realize that. And sure some companies may be a bit more accommodating in the future. But let's be realistic - all those tools existed before. Most people aren't as productive at home, even without kids. I'm barely getting anything done and I see my colleagues' productivity have plummeted. I don't think companies will start to tell people they no longer have to come to work.

Angry Old Lady 2 months ago Member's comment

The coronavirus is officially recognized as #COVID-19. Why do you call it the Wuhan Respiratory Syndrome? Are you like #Trump who has taken to calling it the "China Virus?" Why not call it what it is?

Joseph Cox 2 months ago Author's comment

Because almost every ailment is called by its first place of reported origin. It has been this way for a long time. I happen to think the CCP is deeply evil - I believed it prior to Corona and believe it still - they don't get some special exemption on naming. I'm with Bill Maher on this one... https://biggeekdad.com/2020/04/virus-shaming/

Jack S. Chen 2 months ago Member's comment

Some say it really started in America.

Joseph Cox 2 months ago Author's comment

The Spanish Flu wasn't from Spain, but that was where it was first broadly reported and so that was how it got its name. The US story is hogwash on a stick, of course. Crafting it and pushing it is part and parcel of the propaganda effort that included arresting doctors who reported on the disease in the early days. In reality, we don't know what *caused* the virus although the most likely answer seems to have been a containment screw up in a lab known for them. The lab was likely engaging in legitimate research. The blame falls on the Communist Party information control infrastructure - just as it did in Chernobyl.

However, using a place name is not applying blame. Nobody blames the Spanish for the Spanish Flu or the people of Lyme for Lyme Disease. I'm only using WURS because the attempt not to use a place name is an attempt by the CCP to disassociate their likely actions from the destruction that followed. So while a name doesn't lead to blame, I will ignore this effort *not* to have a related place name. And I will ignore WHO official conventions because they have been complicit the entire time.

I am not calling it the Chinese Flu or something like that because 1) China is too reliable a source of epidemics for that to be descriptive. And 2) 'Chinese' has a broader cultural/ethnic association that doesn't have the same geographic focus. Being Chinese is in no way a cause of this disease. This would be like calling MERS (Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome) the Muslim or Arab Flu because it emerged from Saudi Arabia. Being Muslim or Arab didn't cause MERS and being Chinese didn't cause WURS.